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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
04TEGUCIGALPA945
2004-04-26 18:32:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Tegucigalpa
Cable title:  

PUBLIC AFFAIRS INFLUENCE ANALYSIS FOR HONDURAS

Tags:   OIIP  PREL  KPAO  ECON  PGOV  SMIG  HO 
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						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 TEGUCIGALPA 000945 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

FOR WHA/PDA (OHILTON), WHA/PPC, AND WHA/CEN (TKELLY)
FOR INR, EB, AND CA
STATE PASS AID FOR LAC/CEN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OIIP PREL KPAO ECON PGOV SMIG HO
SUBJECT: PUBLIC AFFAIRS INFLUENCE ANALYSIS FOR HONDURAS

REF: STATE 33359

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 TEGUCIGALPA 000945

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

FOR WHA/PDA (OHILTON), WHA/PPC, AND WHA/CEN (TKELLY)
FOR INR, EB, AND CA
STATE PASS AID FOR LAC/CEN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OIIP PREL KPAO ECON PGOV SMIG HO
SUBJECT: PUBLIC AFFAIRS INFLUENCE ANALYSIS FOR HONDURAS

REF: STATE 33359


1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Honduras is a small country of
approximately 6.7 million people, 72 percent of them living
on less than two dollars a day and almost 50 percent under
the age of 18. A small, core group of related and
associated economic and political elites (see my attached
comment)1, exercise effective control of business and
government. They, along with institutions such as the
Catholic Church, the National Congress, the two major
political parties, some academic and civil society
institutions, the media and, increasingly, the Supreme Court
comprise the most influential groups. The majority of
Hondurans have little or no influence on public policy, due
to a lack of a democratic culture and weak civil society. A
well publicized transparency survey prompted the National
Congress to address major legal reforms to improve their
poor public image. Hondurans are poorly educated with an
average educational level of 5.3 grade years. The power of
the media is tempered because many of these major elites own
the key media outlets. There is an ineffective system of
checks and balances, and laws are not applied equally or
transparently. END SUMMARY


2. (SBU) THE PLAYERS: The upper crust of this elitist
society consists of not more than a couple hundred
interwoven families, some of whom came to Honduras from the
Middle East at the turn of the century or during the First
World War. This upper class is, for the most part, educated
in the United States. For instance, the largest foreign
student association at Louisiana State University (LSU) is
the Honduran Student Association. Mississippi State
University, Texas A&M, and many universities in Florida are
favored destinations as well. Honduran matriculation in
elite universities, such as Notre Dame or the Ivies, is
limited. Honduran students prefer applied education in
business administration or engineering to broad liberal arts

study. The society is divided further along ethnic, class,
and regional lines. The elite group of Hondurans wields the
greatest influence in the country. The great majority of
the upper class of Honduras, like all classes, lacks a
democratic culture and takes for granted that their society
is a spoils system. The elite does not take its civic and
social responsibilities seriously and is an important target
audience in Embassy efforts to introduce transparency in
government, end corruption, improve the rule of law,
increase progressive tax revenues, reduce poverty, improve
primary education, and encourage the development of a middle
class.


3. (SBU) The small middle class lacks the economic and
political strength to resist the elitist policies of the
dominant class and has in the past accommodated itself to
upper class practices, such as nepotism, cronyism and other
sources of corruption. The political and economic
development of a more activist middle class group is
essential to democracy, economic progress, transparency, and
social progress. For this reason, they are an important
target audience. The middle class is diminishing as poverty
continues to grow and income gaps widen.


4. (U) Because of the high percentage of poverty throughout
the country, there is a growing Honduran population that
lives abroad, especially in the United States, and that
produces more than eight hundred million dollars a year in
remittances (remesas). These remesas are the single largest
source of foreign currency for the Honduran national
economy. For this reason, issues such as Temporary
Protective Status (TPS) and visas are a constant concern of
the government, the media and the general population. The
population living in poverty, which includes many
minorities, such as the small but numerous indigenous
peoples groups and the Afro-Caribbean Garifuna community,
has the least influence and the fewest available resources
in education, employment, or health care. Minorities also
suffer disproportionately from diseases such as HIV/AIDS,
tuberculosis, and malaria, poor education, and under- and
unemployment. They are more vulnerable to issues of
interest to the U.S. such as illegal immigration, drug use,
and smuggling, and trafficking in persons (TIP). The
Mission actively works with these minority groups through
humanitarian, education, and aid projects.


5. (U) In many cases, it is more useful to deal directly
with more responsive institutions, such as government, NGOs,
labor unions, municipalities, universities, and the media.
It is critical to direct significant amounts of financial
and human resources to these alternative sources of power to
induce change in the country. The judiciary receives a
great deal of attention and U.S. government resources and is
a high priority in Mission programming. Without a fair and
transparent justice system, the country will remain mired in
the corruption that has eroded confidence in the
administration of the country regardless of the political
party in power.


6. (U) There is another important population group that
should not be neglected. Since half of the population is
under 18, it is imperative to find ways to reach Honduran
youth, many of whom are crowded into the poor urban areas of
the country. Urban problems and youth unemployment are at
the heart of the country's high crime rates, and much public
investment is needed in the areas of economic opportunity
and employment, public health, education, and recreation in
the Honduran urban areas. The growing number of gangs is a
reflection of the growing despair and problems confronting
young men and women. Gangs and gang behavior are in part a
reaction to the lack of employment opportunities and failure
of public education in the country. Gangs are also part of
the illegal immigration problem which has emerged in the
shadow of the close ties between the United States and
Honduras. While job creation has come to a standstill and
economic growth has failed to keep pace with population
growth - a situation exacerbated by a lack of a level
playing field, poorly targeted investment, and a poor public
education system, American popular youth culture is highly
valued. Illegal immigration to the U.S. is high and is a
serious bilateral concern, as some returning and deported
immigrants have developed sophisticated means of organizing
gangs while in the U.S.


7. (U) This is the context in which the media of Honduras
functions. The media can play an important role in moving
Honduras toward more constructive institutions and a more
functional democracy. Yet, many journalists are hamstrung
by low wages, the lack of social responsibility of the
elites, and general habits of corruption, which affect media
owners, business elites, and the government. Some
journalists admit to self-censorship when their reporting
threatens the political or economic interests of media
owners. There have been highly publicized firings of
journalists who dared to challenge the existing elite power
structure.


8. (U) A small number of powerful business magnates with
intersecting business interests, political loyalties, and
family ties owns almost all the news media. For example, of
the four national newspapers, a Liberal Party Congressman
operates one, as well as a national TV station, and a former
President (also from the Liberal Party) runs another. A
wealthy businessman owns the other two. A wealthy
businessman and Nationalist Party supporter owns the major
national television channel. Besides the national TV and
print media, there are national radio channels with large
audiences and small independent TV stations at the local
level. Smaller markets are covered sparsely by the national
news media, so audiences there have to rely on their local
cable channels for news of their area. Most news media do
not maintain overseas correspondents, but there is a fair
amount of international coverage through AP, EFE or other
news services, and, in the case of TV, CNN Espanol.
Finally, there is a fairly small but growing percent of the
population that is accessing news on the Internet.


9. (U) This year's Mission Program Plan has six goal papers,
not including Human Resources. We support these goals with
appropriate resources as outlined below.

Goal 1. Democratic Systems and Practices. The Public
Affairs Section (PAS) supports the efforts of the Political
Section, USAID, and the Front Office through speakers, press
statements, conferences, and briefings to develop Honduran
democratic institutions, create more professional and
capable Honduran law enforcement agencies and military to
interdict drugs, fight organized crime, combat international
terrorism, and strengthen justice sector institutions by
reducing corruption, improving institutional capacity of
courts, prosecutors, and public defenders, and promoting
criminal and civil law reform. The primary audiences for
programs under this goal are the government, human rights
and other nongovernmental organizations, and the media. The
Ambassador undertakes frequent press statements, interviews,
and speeches on corruption, drug trafficking, and the need
for an active and competent justice system. We will sponsor
a speaker for an upcoming TIP conference, as we did last
year. We also use AETN/DVC programs to address important
audiences on these issues. We keep the Mission home page
updated with speeches and materials on these subjects, draft
media reactions, and use IRC outreach to target audiences,
including media, NGOs and government officials.

Goal 2. Economic Growth and Development. PAS provides
assistance to USAID and the Economic Section to explain the
importance of compliance with IMF program benchmarks and the
poverty reduction strategy and to encourage greater
understanding of macroeconomic stability and the need for an
attractive investment climate, effective use of development
finance, and the importance of the creation of a
professional civil service. The primary audience for these
programs is the government, Congressional deputies,
municipalities, labor unions, business, and the general
public. Program strategies include speeches by Economic
Section officers and the Ambassador, press statements,
briefings, Web page, outreach, and other programs, such as
DVCs for targeted audiences.

Goal 3. Trade and Investment. PAS supports USDA, USAID,
and the Economic Section in promoting the successful
completion of the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement
(CAFTA), the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), the
Doha agenda of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and
Honduran support for trade liberalization in general. We
have conducted and will continue to conduct a public
diplomacy strategy to promote the benefits and opportunities
of trade liberalization and curbing of monopolistic behavior
through the International Visitors Program, U.S. speakers,
outreach by the Information Resource Center, updates of the
Mission Internet home page, speeches, and op-eds.

Goal 4. Close Ties with Allies and Friends. The Political
Section and U.S. Military Group work with the government and
military of Honduras to achieve productive relations with
Honduras' Central American neighbors so that it can
contribute to the international effort against terrorism,
increase regional economic cooperation, and reach amicable
settlement of border issues. PAS provides assistance on
military and counterterrorism issues through support for
speeches or press briefings by the Ambassador or other
officials, through the IV program, and by providing outreach
of relevant materials.

Goal 5. Assistance for U.S. Citizens Abroad. The Consular
Section provides support and information to U.S. citizens
and works with government officials on anti-illegal
immigration/anti-terrorism measures. PAS supports Consular
efforts to keep the Mission Web page and Consular
Information Sheets updated. We also support outreach
efforts, directed to U.S. citizens and Honduran visa
applicants, including interviews, AETN/DVC programs, op-eds,
and by editing and placing a monthly Consular Corner article
in a national newspaper.

Goal 6. Mutual Understanding. PAS uses international
exchanges to increase mutual understanding and build trust
between Americans and Hondurans, promote understanding of
domestic political and social realities that underpin
American policy decision-making on issues such as
immigration, CAFTA, homeland security, and drug
interdiction, and encourage good governance and
transparency. We provide U.S. speakers on shared social and
political issues that impact Hondurans and promote public
discussion of the importance of civil society and media
participation in public policy on education, HIV/AIDS, youth-
at-risk, public health and security issues. We support
educational development through programs with libraries and
museums and through cultural exchanges and grants and are
working to establish a pilot program of teaching American
History and American political topics to graduate students.
We support the English language program as a means to
economic and political development and promote educational
exchanges throughout the country. We have also begun to
direct PAS programs such as speakers and book donations to
the most ignored and isolated population groups. In
addition, we have been directing greater efforts to finding
IV grantees and Fulbright students from more remote areas
and marginalized groups such as the Garifunas and other
indigenous and ethnic groups. We have worked with drug
prevention and youth-at-risk programs implemented by both
NGOs and governmental institutions. We will also continue
to work closely with USAID to promote their programs that
seek to build a democratic culture and to alleviate the
rural poverty plaguing Honduras through good governance,
health, education, agricultural development and
environmental programs. The Embassy, through PAS, can
highlight these needs and bring attention to the more
successful projects of the government and NGOs in this area.
On the press side, we support the Ambassador in his
speeches, visits, briefings, interviews, place op-eds, and
distribute materials through our press and IRC sections. We
provide reporting on media trends and opinion. We are
working with small media organizations to offer interviews
and programs to these outlets whenever possible. The small
TV stations in particular are interested in getting material
and will run items of interest to their audiences in its
entirety.

Palmer

_______________________________
1 I've never seen this phrase before. What is the source
of it?